Brendan Rodgers believes Luis Suárez has made a conscious decision to improve his image but continues to receive disproportionate criticism compared with British players, including Gareth Bale.
Bale, who faces Liverpool with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, was booked for simulation for the fourth time this season on Thursday when hooking his leg around Walter Gargano during the 3-0 Europa League win over Internazionale. Suárez has also been booked for diving this season, at Sunderland, and admitted to trying to win a penalty against Stoke City in October, earning a rebuke from Rodgers, who had previously defended him.
The Liverpool manager, however, believes the reaction to Bale's latest indiscretion demonstrates the contrast with Suárez as the two player of the year contenders prepare to meet at Anfield. Rodgers said: "It [Bale's booking] wasn't even mentioned today. I know if that had been Luis I would have been sat there answering questions on it for about half an hour. That's why I defend Luis.
"If players or people are judging him on his football then he's been consistently the best player right the way through the season. If they are going to judge him on things outside of football, then they won't be just judging him and they can't just judge him, because there have been misdemeanours by other players. But that's a part of life and football. We hope we are judging him by his qualities on the field and those have been in evidence."
Despite the controversies that have plagued the Uruguayan striker, Rodgers claims Suárez has shown greater maturity in his game in recent months. He added: "I can only protect my player and judge him from what we see. I don't think it's just with Luis. There are other foreign players it can happen to.
"Luis has tried to change but because he is a foreign player he gets labelled more. If a British player does it, we would maybe laugh about it. He is trying to turn around his life and adapt to the culture.
"You can clearly see with Luis that he has taken on board everything, speaks with his team-mates and you can see that change in him. I have given him responsibility on the field as one of my main guys and you can see that maturity in his performance. His football is outstanding and hopefully it continues."
The Liverpool manager revealed Suárez played with a slight hamstring strain against Wigan Athletic last week, when he scored a hat-trick to overtake Robin van Persie as the leading marksman in the Premier League. "Perhaps nine out of 10 players would not have played," he said. "To have someone like that gives you great hope." Liverpool will have Daniel Sturridge available to face Spurs after the England forward missed the last two games with a thigh problem.